Introduction

Many people dismiss Filemaker Pro as a platform suitable only for very small businesses. However a quick search of the internet shows that many larger companies including Pret A Manger and Eurostar use it. The platform operates in the following enviroments:-

  • Windows desktop
  • Apple Mac
  • ipad
  • iphone
  • via a web browser

Some example projects that we have worked on include:-

  • For a chartered Financial Planner we built a platform that enabled him to do his client valuations, projections and reporting
  • For a City Mergers and Acquistion firm we developed a tool that allowed them to track their sales pipeline
  • Bar code scanning system for plumbers merchant

Here are some of the things that we have learnt over the last 5 years in building systems with Filemaker:-

Understand why the solution is being built in Filemaker Pro

The software industry is an evolving beast with new products coming on the market every day. One of the first things that we say to any client is why do you feel the need for a bespoke solution. What research have they done  for products on the open market that are suitable for your vertical sector ? If they have not, then they really need to. In addition, can you quantify the amount of data that is required and  the complexity of the relationships between them ?

Data Migration

How much data needs to be moved from the old system to Filemaker Pro ? If it is just customer names and addresses from an excel spreadsheet than that is easily acheivable. However if you need to migrate data from an existing database which has several tables and many hundreds or thousands lines of data then how will you go about that ? The situation may be even more challenging if content such as images and video are involved. Also can you actually access the data ? We had one case where they had lost the original user name and password to enter the old system. Fortunately we were able to get in using an ethical hack.

Infrastructure

Filemaker Pro is a hosted solution – and hence the quality of the infrastructure is paramount to the success of the project. So we consider the clients internet speed, the hardware being used etc. There are some clients who still need to use a wired ethernet cable to connect  their PC’s to the web, and these are likely to have slower internet speeds – which can have an impact on performance. Some clients also use Microsofts Small Business Server – which is incompatible with Filemaker Pro Server. In these cases the solution would be to host the solution on an external database server.

Its not a word processor

Many people believe that that a database is a snazzy word processor, which is simply not true. So look at the required outputs and see how easily they can be produced in Filemaker Pro. If the client has text which is reasonably standardised or items from a pick list then it should be possible to build the system.

Use the latest version

We do get asked to help with systems that are built in very old versions of Filemaker Pro. However we insist that the client upgrades to the latest version (currently Version 16) as it is better for both the client and us if they do so. Hence the needs to factor in the cost of upgrading to the new licences as well as development time.

Installation Time

Unless the client is using purely the web direct version of Filemaker Pro, then a licence will need to be installed on every machine. Hence, if there are a large number of users, the time taken to install the device on each machine must be factored in.

Scope Creep

Clients appear go to on an evanlegism when they start having solutions built for them. As the journey progresses they have an ever increasing wish list. Hence it is paramount to define the scope upfront and continually remind them of it.

About the author

Kapil Kapur is the Managing Director of Fingertips Intelligence, who help companies make better decisions faster – through building bespoke dabase systems. If you would like an informal chat on how we can help your business then please get in touch on info@fingertips-intelligence.co.uk.

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